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Archives: Sep. 2009


Roadside bomb claims life of Lewis soldier

Spc. Kevin J. Graham
Spc. Kevin J. Graham

The e-mail arrived at Fort Lewis on Saturday afternoon, and the message was all too familiar. Stryker troops from the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment had been involved in a violent encounter in Afghanistan that day. One soldier was dead.

He was identified Monday as Spc. Kevin J. Graham of Benton, Ky. The 27-year-old infantryman was on his first overseas deployment.

But Graham’s identity was not shared in the e-mail sent to Fort Lewis families on Saturday. The details of his death, as in all messages of this kind, were scant: The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin had been notified. The unit would hold a memorial service, with the time and place to be determined.

“Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers,” Capt. Franky Kim, the battalion’s rear detachment commander, wrote at the end of the message. “Thank you for your continuous support.”

Graham was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle in Kandahar. He enlisted in the Army in July 2007 and was assigned to Fort Lewis in December 2007.

Graham’s relatives in Benton — a town of about 4,400 people in western Kentucky — couldn’t be reached Monday. A relative told The News Tribune that Graham’s parents were returning Monday from Dover Air Force Base, Del., where Graham’s remains arrived stateside.

His death is the 16th for the Strykers of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. And 10 of those deaths have fallen on a single battalion, the 1-17.
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Local links, Sept. 28

The long list of stories from over the weekend starts with deaths from 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The Pentagon released the names of three soldiers from the unit killed Thursday.

5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division:
Soldier knew ‘duty and desire’ [The News Tribune]
Bellevue man among three soldiers killed in Afghanistan [Seattle Times]
As death toll rises, Ft. Lewis soldiers honored [KOMO-TV]
Area soldier killed in Afghanistan [Columbus Dispatch]

2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment:
The night that changed Hilltop [The News Tribune]

3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division:

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Roadside bomb kills three Fort Lewis soldiers

Three Fort Lewis soldiers, including one from Bellevue, were killed Thursday in Afghanistan, the military announced Saturday.

Sgt. Titus R. Reynolds, Sgt. Edward B. Smith and Spc. Joseph V. White died when a bomb exploded near their Stryker in Omar Zai, Afghanistan. The three served with 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which has served in southeastern Afghanistan since July.

Fifteen of the brigade’s 3,900 soldiers have been killed since it deployed in July; all but one death has been the result of roadside bombs detonating near a vehicle or during a foot patrol.

White, a 21-year-old Bellevue native, had served

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Lakewood to study post growth

Lakewood will study the affect of Fort Lewis’ growth on surrounding communities, thanks to a $1.8 million grant from a Department of Defense agency.

The funding from the Office of Economic Adjustment pays for two studies: one that looks at transportation issues and a growth coordination plan that assesses the strain of post growth on an array of issues, including housing, education, utilities and public safety.

“The growth of Fort Lewis brings development, but it also brings some challenges we need to study,” David Bugher, Lakewood’s assistant city manager, said Tuesday. “It’s definitely having an impact. We just need to figure out exactly what that impact is going to be.”

Lakewood is the lead agency on the study, which will include input from varied stakeholders like the federal government, state government, community colleges, municipalities, ports and school districts.
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Reports: Stryker soldiers killed in Zabul

Four Stryker soldiers – likely from Fort Lewis – were killed in attacks in Afghanistan on Thursday, according to several reports published Friday.

The soldiers died in the same district of Zabul province, sparsely populated and long-overlooked province along the Pakistani border. Three of the soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a bomb, and the fourth died during a firefight with insurgents.

The Associated Press, the New York Times and the Times of London have all reported the deaths.

Members of Fort Lewis’ 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division have been operating in Zabul since this summer, but the reports did not specifically name with which unit the troops served or at what installation they were based. The 5th Brigade is the only Stryker unit in the country, but special operations forces previously have used the 20-ton vehicles in Afghanistan.

Units from 5th Brigade first moved into Zabul earlier this summer to take over the Romanian-led task force struggling to keep security. Lt. Col. Karl Slaughenhaupt told Stars and Stripes newspaper earlier this month the soldiers planned on clearing villages and valleys of insurgents and then man a series of small outposts so the troops can stay close to the population they’re tasked with protecting.

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Friends, families mourn fallen 3/2 soldiers

The true toll of a Stryker rollover in Iraq earlier this month was two lives ended, but countless others impacted.

Staff Sgt. Todd W. Selge and Sgt. Jordan M. Shay died in the accident on Sept. 3. Selge leaves behind a widow and two sons; Shay, a fiancée whom he planned to marry when he returned from Iraq next year.

And the death shook many members of Fort Lewis’ 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which avoided losing any of its soldiers through the first month of its yearlong deployment to Iraq. Many of them gathered Thursday afternoon at the Main Post Chapel on Fort Lewis for a memorial ceremony honoring the lives of Selge and Shay.

“I feel the world is a little bit darker today with the passing of Staff Sgt. Selge and Sgt. Shay,” said Lt. Michael Baliles, in whose platoon Shay and Selge served for 18 months before they deployed. “However, when I think of what they did, who they were and how they lived, I am honored and privileged that I had time to spend in their presence.”

The soldiers, members of the brigade’s 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, served at Forward Operating Base Warhorse outside Baqouba. Selge and Shay’s unit was conducting night operations when their Stryker rolled and fell off a bridge, according to several published reports.

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Stryker soldiers were leaders among peers

Lt. David T. Wright II taught fellow soldiers what he learned from years of martial arts and collegiate track and field. Sgt. Andrew H. McConnell earned a reputation of a high-intensity attitude, no matter what the situation.

Both left impressions of being leaders among their peers, but now their colleagues in 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division must continue the mission of battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan without them. The two soldiers were killed Sept. 14 when a roadside bomb detonated near their Stryker.

Hundreds gathered at the North Fort Chapel on Thursday to pay respects to the two soldiers, assigned to the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. Commanders delivered speeches, friends eulogized the fallen and tears flowed during the final roll call, rifle salute and playing of taps.

“A very capable platoon lost two leaders that knew their job, knew their men and knew how to accomplish the mission,” said Capt. Drew Shaub, reading a statement the two soldiers’ battalion commander gave on Sept. 18. “They’ve done it more times than they can count since we arrived in Afghanistan.”

The soldiers of Wright and McConnell’s unit had just completed a 10-day campaign of clearing Taliban-held territory in the Arghandab valley and had moved to their new area of operations, nearby Maywand district. They were returning from their first mission in Maywand, joint foot patrol with another U.S. Army unit, and were riding in a convoy back to their outpost when a bomb detonated near one of the unit’s Strykers.
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